OK. Before I write anything I have to declare my interest as a director on the Lyceum board. If that invalidates my thoughts in your mind dear reader then I understand. So be it. I speak with honesty not nepotism. Take it or leave it.
So, the opening of The Lyceum’s new season (in collaboration with the wonderful Dundee Rep) has been highly anticipated in this particular household having seen the original production of this fabulous play in the 1987 when it was premiered by Communicado, and performed at The Lyceum.
The first and most important reason that we were so excited about it is that Liz Lochhead wrote it. And boy can our Makar write. I was in tears of laughter at Educating Agnes which the Lyceum staged in the spring, and although this production has many moments of humour it’s not a comedy.
Instead it is a breathtaking ensemble piece which firmly nails Lochhead’s views on the union between Scotland and England through the insanely close relationship between two cousins, both queens, one a virgin, one almost a floozie.
The queens in question dominate the action and of course we all have to have favourites, mine was Mary played with a beautiful gaelic/french lilt by Shauna Macdonald. Flame haired and feisty she was nevertheless in the thrall of the more dominant but deeply self absorbed Elizabeth played by Emily Winter. Whilst MacDonald has a steady and absorbing presence that grows with the play Winters’ is more stacatto, punctuating the play with many of its high points, especially when she brainwashes Darnley before his trip north to seduce and ultimately marry Mary.
The play, both modern and historical in one, is directed with real verve and gusto by Tony Cownie and the design by Neil Murray is well observed and funny.
It’s great. Not just because of the fantastic script, but in the performances of the whole cast in particular the aforementioned queens and Liam Brennan who really is at the top of his game as a snarling, spitting John Knox that makes many a Catholic squirm uncomfortably in their seat.
Whilst Ann Louise Ross has been pulling rave reviews as Corbie (the Crow) narrator I preferred Myra McFadzean’s performance in Communicado’s original production. I also thought her performance in Age of Arousal trumped this.
A resounding yes for this production although for all of our group its resolution was probably the weakest point.